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Microsoft Store: Times Square NYC Review

For those who might not know, Microsoft is opening pop-up stores in some big cities to help sell the Microsoft Surface tablet. One opened up in the middle of Times Square in NYC a few months ago but since I’m a native New Yorker, I had no urge to go to Times Square (tourists, ugh) to visit a store. That being said, there was a documentary being shown that I wanted to see and it was only being shown at the AMC theater on 42nd street so I had no choice other than to go to Times Square. Passing the store, I was apprehensive in entering. It looked a bit too similar to an Apple Store and seemed to not have much merchandise on display. I also thought the shirts saying “I’m a PC” was a bit over the top and silly. As I gained up the courage to enter the store, I heard a passerby say “Is that an Apple store?”, which only made me feel worse. Upon entering, I found the store sorta empty compared to the traffic on the sidewalk outside the store. 

Like the Apple store, they have quite a few devices on display for people to use. The first Windows Phone 8 device I tried was the Nokia Lumia 920. Unlike the Apple store, but very similar to Best Buy, the phone would not turn on. I moved on to a working model and tested some things out. Being an iOS user, I was very pleased with the Windows Phone 8 home screen. The live tiles were very fun and the scrolling very smooth. I was curious what apps were available for the device which led me in an attempt to find the app store. Now I’m not sure if this was a problem with the icon for the Windows Phone store or the fact that the tile was so small on the screen but it took me awhile to find the app store. Once inside the store, I found the apps I wanted to find but was, of course, disappointed by the lack of apps that I use on my iPhone that aren’t so popular but still very useful to my daily life.

I then moved over to the Microsoft Surface tablet. My first shock was that the device was not tethered to any security cord at all. You could literally take it and move it around. While that’s good to show how easy it is to move and how you can buy more than one touch cover and swap them around quickly, but still, it’s New York…I hope they have cameras set up. My first time using the Touch Cover was surprisingly pleasant. It’s a flat slab of some soft material with touch sensitive keys in the layout of a full QWERTY keyboard. I thought the typing was rather nice, though being a keyboard guy, I probably wouldn’t like doing it for long periods of time. The Type Cover was nicer because that has real keyboard keys just like a laptop, but the trackpad was rather small for my liking. Being a guy who owned an iPad and returned it because I felt like it didn’t do enough of what I wanted to do, I thought the Surface did a lot more. Maybe it was because of the keyboard on the cover but I felt the Surface to be more of a laptop replacement than the iPad is.

Overall, the store was nice. The employees were there if you needed help but didn’t pester you. For being in the middle of Times Square, the store wasn’t very crowded but I did see a person purchasing a Surface when I was there. Most people have never used a Windows Phone before and I really think they should. It’s a nice OS and if the app situation improves, my next phone will probably be a phone running Windows Phone 8.


Extinguishing the Kindle Fire

After about a month of use, I am ready to send back my Kindle Fire. Thankfully, Amazon gave until January 31st 2012 to return it. The reason I am returning it is because I no longer want or need it. I brought it to be a lazy device. I planned on using it when I wanted to sit down, read a magazine, browse the Internet, and maybe watch a movie. Sadly, these are the features that lack on the Kindle Fire.

Magazines that have apps like GQ, for example, the only magazine I currently subscribe to, has an app which formats the paper magazine to the Fire’s screen, has videos and links built-in and you do not have to zoom into the magazine to read the articles. This is a really nice reading experience. In most cases, I like reading GQ on my Kindle Fire more than I do on my normal paper subscription. That was until the current issue arrived at my door about a week ago (a week after I started seeing it on Newsstands) and it is STILL not on my Kindle Fire. 3 weeks ago I saw the latest edition on a Barnes & Noble Nook tablet.

The magazines that don’t have an app are pure pain to use. They basically scanned the magazine in PDF form. You MUST zoom into every page you want to read. The problem with that is that you have to zoom in in the center of the screen, if not, the page turns. There is also a problem with orientation. Some ads and articles require landscape mode and SOME require portrait. It’s a bit annoying to keep turning the device around to find the perfect format.

The web browser is horrible. It’s slow, it crashes, and tends to forget the tabs you have open. Mobile sites tend to work fine but if you are using a full site, you will have some issues with it. Since I brought this device mostly for browsing the internet, this is a bit of a bummer.

Video is another pain. If you want to stream something from Amazon Prime, it usually looks pretty good. The issue is, the streaming library is kind of weak. You can buy videos from Amazon but since I have Netflix, I’m not going to pay to rent each movie. Getting video from your computer to the Kindle Fire is a bit annoying as well. It requires a Micro USB cable, which Amazon does not include with the Kindle Fire. They do provide this cable with normal Kindle’s so if you are lucky enough to own a Kindle, you can use this cable with the Kindle Fire. The lack of cable isn’t even the worst part. You need to put your file in the correct folder, not just a drag and drop like an external hard drive. If you are transferring a video, you must put it in the Video folder, transferring a song=Music folder. You get the idea. Now, since this thing ships with no manual at all, good luck figuring out where the hell the content you transferred went. You need to search for the Gallery app, which is already installed on the Kindle Fire, just hidden by default, and that’s where all the non-Kindle content is stored.

Right now, I am only using my Kindle Fire as a magazine reader and I feel like it’s a waste of money. I don’t need a $200 device to just read magazines. It’s also not like I’m saving any money using the Kindle Fire instead of getting a paper subscription. I did the math and it turns out that I will be saving money by getting a 2 year subscription of the paper magazine rather than paying per issue on the Kindle Fire. I’ll also have a better time reading on paper than I do reading a big PDF file.

I like the Kindle Fire for it’s size and weight and I would recommend it to anyone who can find a use for it.